After over half a century wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park resulting in a remarkable trophic cascade. A trophic cascade is an ecological process that begins at the top of the food chain and has a ripple effect all the way down. At first instance you would think that wolves restored the ecological balance by killing various species of animals... but fascinatingly, this also means they give life to myriad others. They didn't just kill deer - they changed their behavior: The deer started avoiding certain open areas, regenerating the vegetation in gorges, consequently flooding bare valleys with willow and cottonwood, thereby multiplying the number of beavers that feed on these trees, who's damns changed the course of the rivers which began to meander less, controlling erosion, which stabilized the river banks, catalyzing conditions that are ideal for wildlife habitat and resulting in hundreds of other species returning to the park: ducks, otters, reptiles, amphibians, even eagles and hawks!
So the wolves were essentially ecosystem engineers - creating niches for other species - transforming not just the ecosystem but also its physical geography!
What is fascinating about this is how we humans give such little thought to our actions. To think of the hundreds of species that are endangered by the impact of the Anthropocene (geological age where humans are having irreversible effects on the world) means not just loosing magnificent creatures like tigers and sharks and other top predators, but also putting entire ecosystems at stake... in our forests and oceans.
To learn more about the Anthropocene - visit: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/anthropocene_welcome.asp and use your voice to spread awareness about this new epoch so that, like the wolves, we can change the course of the world's future for the better.
After a 70 year absence, wolves have finally been reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. The impact of their absence could not be fully realized until their return. Nature is an impressive beast that should never be underestimated.